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Metamorphic Rock Activities

Instructor: Julie Zundel

Julie has taught high school Zoology, Biology, Physical Science and Chem Tech. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Education.

Learning about geology is a great way to connect students to the world around them. This series of activities teaches students about metamorphic rocks in fun, hands-on ways that will not only educate but will also entertain.

Metamorphic Rocks

Teaching students about the rock cycle creates a firm basis for geology. This series of activities is geared towards metamorphic rocks, which are created when a rock is exposed to high pressures and temperatures.

Metamorphic Candy

This activity requires students to make observations about what takes place when metamorphic rocks are formed.

Materials

  • Graham crackers (broken-up)
  • Mini-marshmallows
  • M&Ms
  • Paper cupcake holders
  • Paper pieces
  • Microwave

Activity Instructions

Place a few pieces of each ingredient in a cupcake holder, and then place the cupcake holder into a microwave. Leave it in long enough to soften everything but not melt everything. Once softened, take it out of the microwave, and have students smash the contents together. They can place a piece of paper over the cupcake holder (to prevent dirtying hands and feet), and smash it downwards with their hand, or they can step on the cupcake holder/ingredients. After the ingredients have been smashed together, students can observe the new metamorphic 'rock.' Students should write down observations about how metamorphic rocks are formed, based on what was learned in this activity.

Metamorphic Play-Doh

This activity requires students to build their own metamorphic rocks after making observations about actual metamorphic rocks.

Materials

  • Metamorphic rocks (for example gneiss, marble, slate, and schist)
  • Play-Doh (at least three different colors)
  • Science notebooks

Activity Instructions

Begin by having students observe the rock samples, and write down some observations in their science notebooks. Students should note how the rocks are similar.

Next, have each group roll three different colored pieces of Play-Doh into three balls (sizes vary depending upon the availability of Play-Doh). Next, have the students roll the balls out flat, and then stack the flat pieces on top of each other making layers. These flat pieces represent sedimentary rocks. Students can draw what the layers look like in their science notebooks. Now that the layers are stacked on top of one another, twist and smash the Play-Doh, making it into one giant piece. Students can draw the new 'rock.' Discuss with students that they just created a metamorphic rock through pressure, and in real life, the rocks are formed through pressure and temperature. Have students compare their metamorphic 'rock' to the ones observed at the start of the activity.

Rock Cycle Tag Game

This activity allows students to see how metamorphic rocks fit into the rock cycle. The materials and instructions are for a class of 30.

Materials

  • Bucket
  • Tape or string (optional: create notecard necklaces with the string and notecards)
  • An open area
  • Notecards labeled with the following (the parenthesis after each name indicate the number of notecards required):
    • Magma (20)
    • Cold (6)
    • Igneous Rock (20)
    • Erosion (4)
    • Sediment (20)
    • Compacting (6)
    • Sedimentary Rock (20)
    • Heat/Pressure (3)
    • Metamorphic Rock (20)
    • Melting (1)

Assignments

Assign students the following roles:

  • 20 students are 'magma'
  • 6 students are 'cold'
  • 4 students are 'erosion'

All of the labeled notecards should be in a bucket at the front of the class. Once assigned a role, each student needs to get the appropriate notecard name, and attach it to his/her shirt using tape (or you can create notecard necklaces ahead of time for students to wear). After they have the appropriate notecard, students should congregate in the 'rock cycle area' (which is an open area without chairs, such as an empty classroom, playground, or gym). Each student will have a role, or roles, during this game, so they must listen to the instructions carefully.

Magma Cools

Begin by having the 'erosion' students sit on the sideline and instruct the 'cold' students to run around and tag the 'magma' students. Like real magma, the 'magma' students can move. When a 'magma' student has been tagged by a 'cold' student, he or she turns into an igneous rock (which is what occurs when magma cools). At this point, he or she must go to the bucket, trade out the 'magma' sign for an 'igneous rock' sign, and then return to the 'rock cycle area' and stay motionless (an igneous rock does not move). The 'cold' students must tag all of the 'magma' students before the game can proceed.

Igneous Rock is Eroded

After all of the 'magma' students have been changed into 'igneous rock,' the 'cold' students go to the sidelines, and the 'erosion' students come into the 'rock cycle area.' The erosion students need to find and tag all of the 'igneous rock' students. Once tagged, the 'igneous rock' students become 'sediment,' so they need to go to the bucket and trade out their signs, and then return to the 'rock cycle area.' Because sediment can move, the 'sediment' students can move around. Students cannot go to the next section until the 'erosion' students have tagged all of the 'igneous rock' students changing them all to 'sediment.'

Sediment to Sedimentary Rocks to Metamorphic Rocks to Magma

Tell the 10 students who were 'cold' and 'erosion' that they will have new roles (and new notecards)

  • 6 students are 'compacting'
  • 3 students are 'heat/pressure'
  • 1 student is 'melting'
  • The 20 'sediment' students from before remain sediment.

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